Vanguard (Lagos)

15 December 2012

Nigeria: Lagosians Deserve to Live Better, Not 'Okada-Life' - Opeifa,

interview

On agitation against traffic law

There is no public agitation against the traffic law. There is overwhelming support for it by Lagosians. Like in any society, those who are against any policy are those who kick. For your information we have document the commercial motorcycle operators signed, it was not forced on them.

If you look at the last demonstration, the number of people involved tells you it was not popular. You can see the streets of Lagos, it is free from Okada. We spent about three months for advocacy and awareness, we didn't immediately commence the implementation of the law.

But because we know it has socio-economic impact on the people, we have to apply socio-economic style to the issue. But I will tell you that majority of Lagosians are satisfy with it, what people are saying is that we need to put more buses on the road. We have said that we are monitoring the situation because should we have too many buses, the Public Private Partnership initiative will be affected.

It means those people running the Danfo will also be affected and that will be another socio-economic loss and they may pull out. But what we need is the redistribution of buses even the transporters have gotten to understand where the needs are.

What we had before was that the motorcycle operators had distorted the needs and the demand equilibrium. As a result, the use of bus stops are no more valid. Now that that is no more, it means people have to find their ways to the bus-stops. So, most times you see people actually treking to the bus-stops and if they can't find a bus, they would move to the next one.

Since November, people have changed and they tend to demonstrate better understanding of the whole essence of the law and where they need to be to get a bus. Again, people assume that when they pick a bus, it will take them to their destinations.

No, it is not like that, you pick a bus at one location and get down at another and connect to your destinations. How many bus routes will you now have in a particular station? That was what Okada destroyed and that is coming back now.

Police intimidation and arrest

The word is not intimidation, it is arrest. If an okada operator is on an unrestricted route and is not wearing a crash helmet, he should be arrested, the law does not permit you to go anywhere without helmet.

The law says on the route you are allowed, you must not carry two persons, or children. If the police are doing anything different from these, then there is an issue. In all the instances people have reported to us, when we asked questions, they will tell us the Okada-man was not wearing an helmet.

They seem not to understand, if you are close to Ikorodu road, and the law says you should be 50meters away from the Ikorodu road, the police will meet you where you are less than 50 metres; and if you are on a particular road that is restricted, say for instance Ipaja road and you run into Oyewole road, and they find you around Seriki road, they could arrest you because there is no way you would be on Seriki road without passing through the restricted road. So, people should rather understand this.

The selection of roads is 475 out of 9,100 which is less than 6 per cent of the road, there are still more places. Nobody is saying you should not ply Ikorodu road except two roads, nobody restricted you in Agege and most of the roads in Ifako Ijaiye but why should you ply Iju road that is restricted. So, if the Okada men complied initially as they complied, should we now encouraged the disobedient ones? No, that is why there is a government and there are people. Majority of the people have agreed.

We know the number of Okada that were on the road, and we know the few ones who have refused to comply, should we now be propagating for the issue of minority? Yes, they may have their say but not their way over the majority. The people of Lagos should decide, do you want to live an okada life, or you want to live a BRT life?

Service and Management of BRT

We don't own the BRT buses. The NURTW owned the BRT buses, we only created the infrastructure. If the NURTW can manage BRT which is the best we have in Nigeria, why can't they manage modern taxis? If an okada rider has N250,000, he can become the owner of a taxi car.

If taxi makes more money why doesn't he want to make more money? And we said we would pay them the N250,000, while the cost of the vehicle is N1.85m and because they are patronised, it became N2.2m and it is their union handling it. We have only stood as guarantors.

As a government, we have put in place policies that will make them successful, why can't an Okada operator be a Danfo driver, or a taxi driver, even the BRT. There are so many buses parked without drivers. We promised people safe, efficient, reliable and sustainable means of public transportation. We did not promised them otherwise, Okada is not safe, reliable and sustainable.

The governor once asked them a question: "Can you leave this as a job for your children to do?" They said no!. He asked again, do you want okada to be a legacy for the next generation, they said no!. Then let us stop it now, and move to what we can bequeath to our children.

The leadership of Okada union

Those complaining are people who collect tolls from them on a daily basis. They make money from them. At the last demonstration they held at Ojuelegba, it shows the organisers have other motive because people like the Eko-eso, the leader of ANACOWA were not there.

Okada have been restricted or banned in some PDP states like Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, FCT, Abuja, Delta, Kwara, Rivers and now recently Plateau and Kano. What we have done in Lagos is not politically motivated.

We have the best public transport network in Nigeria. We have increased capacity on water ways by 300 percent. We are building a rail road system even though they say it is in federal exclusive list, we have gotten permission to do it from Okoko to Marina and we are also working hard to get the rail line working.

Reduction in rate of Okada accident victims

We added over 400 buses in one day and out of that, NURTW has about 60, Trade Union Congress has about 200, plying Ajah. These are unions, and we have private sector involvement, Mutual Assurance, we have the former Molue operator in the system too. Okada has never been a mass transport system.

It is a polutant and very unsafe as it causes sickness. We went to Lagos State university Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, last week, we found out that the lobby of the emergency room which was hitherto filled with extra couch bed, was free.

They revealed that Okada accounted for over 80 per cent of patients. But as at today, record shows about 60 per cent reduction. If you consider that of Igbobi and other places with this level of reduction, you will agree with me, it is a success. The question is: Is there any one who does not have an Okada victim in his family? It is all about safety and security.

More buses on the road

You cannot put too many buses on that corridor they will damage the road. That is why you see that the road goes bad more often. Again, we dont own the buses, they have already injected 50 of thoses buses but you will not notice it.

On the service lane, we have the yellow buses which usually take the spill over and very soon, there is addition of that coming up on the service lane, we can't just increase the BRT which is meant for long distance. LAGBUS has also increased its presence on that corridors.

In Abule Egba, Sango-Ota, we have increased by 20. In Lekki-Ajah, we have increased by 20, and by next week, we will be commissioning another 20. We don't manufacture buses but we have started assembling buses here. But do we have enough buses in Lagos? You can't really say no.

With 50,000 yellow buses at 10 each, that is 500,000 capacity; with 1000 LAGBUSES that is about an average of 400,000 people. So, it means we have close to one million at a time. Do we really move onemillion at all time.

The situation is that at rush hour when you see buses go, they tend to wait after making short trips and that is why the result is seemingly imbalance. But the situation is better now because there are more redistribution of buses because the buses have moved to where they need them.

We are extending the BRT to Ikorodu. We have extended it from Yaba to Oyingbo and we have put buses on those routes.

The NURTW have increased the buses in the corridor but the truth is that they cannot increase beyound a certain limit. The next thing is that service delivery needed to improve.

We are determined to ensure that those who use the Okada for private business have access to it but not for commercial purposes except on areas we have not restricted them like Agbelekale, inside Iyana-Ipaja, inside Egbeda, they are still operating. We stay healthy if we walk to the bus-stop and take a bus rather than endangering our lives.

If you think there is traffic on Ikorodu, you can use water transportation, it is now expensive because they use petrol; we are also working on that so that they can have diesel propelled engines. It is safe.

What we are saying is that the capacity to move exist without okada. The believe that you need okada to move is false. There are areas where there are no adequate public transportation, we have not restricted, but if we have, let us know and we will make amends.

BRT shelter and service delivery in Oshodi-Apapa road

Certainly, we are looking at the possibility of increasing the stop and pick system. We have used the ticketing to create more jobs. These are jobs Okada riders can take up, it is more dignifying that Okada.

There is a job opportunity there and as you know, the ticketing is not by government. It is by individuals who are making their means of livelihood through that means.

Need for outright ban of Okada in future

When we did our survey, majority of people said we should have banned it, but we believe banning is not the solution. It is a socio-economic problem, some people's livelihood are attached to it. That is why we restricted them to areas we believe they are safe.

If people believe we should do that, we will, but if you look at our pedigree, we don't ban anything, we did not ban bolekaja. It was the presence of Molue that effaced Bolekaja and for Molue, we did not ban it, it is the presence of the LAGBUSES. The quality of service we provide, through our mass transist will definitely change the situation. We don't believe in banning and it is not the solution.

Banning as a solution will only be the last resort. Others states did but we believe we can manage it, in the whole of the federation, we have one of the best unemployment rate. We keep creating jobs because Lagos is a place where people come and get something to do. So, there are many more opportunities peopl can tap into.

BRT corridor riddled with potholes and Ikorodu-Mile 12 Road

We engage in constant repairs of the road. we always maintain the terminals and I believe we will do better with regular maintenance of all infrastructure. We rehabilitated the Ketu-Mile 12 axis about two years ago when we also worked on the whole of the service lane. We keep working on it.

On Ikorodu-Mile 12 road, some few years back, it was a 20-25 minutes journey. The case is different now and the problem is the potholes. We wanted to fix that road two years ago, the Federal government prevented us. Right now the road is being maintained by Federal government and FERMA. But we believe they not doing a good job and we requested to fix and now they have graciously agreed.

It is a new contract and we have awarded it. They are going to reconstruct it into three lanes with a BRT Corridor. If you go on that road at about 10am, it is about 30 minutes and it is as a result of the potholes.

Some of the problems causing delay on the road is that at the Mile 12 axis, people are crossing the road to the market instead of using the pedestrian bridge and as a result they slow everybody down. Again, the yellow buses ignoring the bus-stop and dropping people going to the market on the road. They refused to go on the service lane. Another problem is that Ikorodu is fast developing in population.

That road now cannot sustain the traffic. That is why we are rebuilding the road and we are also considering building another road to go behind Ikorodu and burst out at the express. The design is already done.

It is on the process of awarding the contract but we must have the resources. But I believe, if we finally fix the Mile 12-Ikorodu road, you wont see traffic there again. It is a two-year contract.

You see, the present Mile 12 market used to be a motor garage but they converted it to market. It is no doubt it is one of the markets in Nigeria that must leave. But the thing is that where are you taking them to. Before thinking about that, you must build another one for them.

On overloading and recklessness of BRT drivers

We will spend more time to train them and with adequate training, they will behave better. These drivers are before now unemployed and we have graduates among them. They never wanted to work as drivers but if that is the job available, we will build confidence in them and that is the essence of the Lagos State Drivers' Institute.

We also working on the issue of attitude and working to ensure that speed limit device is working. We will do better by constant training; don't forget they part of the society and they need the job.

Traffic control and the Yuletide period

For us in Lagos, we have gone beyond looking at the ember months. We have developed an holistic approach to traffic management. We recently had a sport festival with 12,000 additional people in Lagos. So, we have the capacity to manage it, not only in terms of number but also in terms of ideas and strategies.

Let me say that driving general against traffic has reduced, there is increase in the number of people going for Road Worthiness, there is increase in the number of those going to the Driver's Institute, and there is also a reduction on the number those offenders apprehended by LASTMA because more people are getting to me more compliant. These are the trend we want to see.

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